Video Games | Psychologist Celia Hodent proposes an “ethical charter.”

Celia Hodent, a doctor of cognitive psychology, has helped improve the user experience of many games, including Fortnite. Since 2020, it has been fighting over-aggressive monetization models that try to lock in the player. Press He joined her in Los Angeles.

How does a psychologist collaborate in video games?

I have a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, where I conducted research on how mental processes such as cognitive development, perception, attention, and memory work. I turned to fun and games very early. Games are very important for children’s development and also for protecting our neurons and brains during adulthood. Being a gamer myself, I fell into video games early, grew up with video games, played a lot with my parents. I started at Ubisoft in France, went to Ubisoft in Montreal – stayed one winter, survived! [rires]. I really enjoyed my time in Montreal. I had an opportunity at Lucas Arts in San Francisco. I came to Epic Games in 2013 and became the director of user experience, which I worked on a lot. Fortnite Until 2017. I have been a consultant for six years.


Celia Hodent, PhD in Cognitive Psychology

Your name has been removed from the pending class action lawsuit Fortnite. How do you respond to people who see you as one of the people who helped make this game addictive?

Obviously, as with any cultural product, in video games we need to be engaged. My work is user experience that puts itself in the human shoes. The purpose of a video game is to have fun. Is the game ergonomic? Do people understand what they are supposed to do?

So there is no such thing in a video game Fortnite Is it insidiously designed to use what we know about the human mind to trick people?

Video game developers never want to make people addicted. This is neither desirable nor desirable from an ethical point of view. The idea is to bring entertainment, that’s all. Game designers use mechanics to make the game more interesting. But this is very different from the marketing techniques used to get people to come back, because it’s not that the game is interesting, but if we don’t come back, we’ll lose all our credits or whatever we’ve earned. .

In July 2020, you started working Ethical gamescampaign offering a guide to making games more ethical.

I have been talking about this for a long time. Since early 2019, I’ve said at the Game Developers Conference that there are ethical questions about what we do. If we want to defend video games as an art form, we need to be aware of practices that are unethical, monetize, or keep people coming back because they feel compelled to, rather than because the game is fun. do so These are the elements that are problematic from my point of view and that of many people in the industry.

Do you have specific games in mind?

In fact, the problem is not so much the game mechanics. Often this will be something outside of the game, such as a reward you can get if you log in every day. We shouldn’t be punished if we don’t want to play. There are mechanisms that are not only used in video games, in marketing in general, in your supermarket, on airplanes, these are loss aversion mechanisms. It is very common and has been around for a long time, it is not new. These models are now used in video games, especially models it was free to play.

Have you convinced any studios to come with you?

I have several studios that have contacted me and are interested in the process. I think it’s not mature yet, I’m still working on bringing together all the academic research on the various elements we’ve mentioned in this code. The idea is to develop an ethical charter for video games, but we want it to be based on science, not the moral panics we hear here and there. It will take a little longer.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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